Received promotion with disappointing pay raise. Should I ask for more?
July 15, 2013 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Just received a long-awaited promotion. However, the accompanying pay raise was a massive disappointment, and now I'm strongly considering looking for a new job. Is it worth it to ask for more money? If not, should I stay at my current company or find a new job?

I don't currently have another job lined up, so I'm hesitant to ask for more money. If my boss comes back to me and says that he can't get any more, I've just signaled that I'm unhappy, which could make things awkward for me. However, I know how hard it is to find someone with my skills, and I know how much money companies like mine will pay in recruiting fees and referral bonuses to hire someone like me. It really would be in their best interest to just pay me more to keep me. I should mention that I'm otherwise happy with my job, and if the pay raise would have been greater, I wouldn't be posting this.

I'm currently making below market rate for my skills. I know this because I know other people in the industry, and I know how much they're making. I also know that my company has a hard time recruiting because they don't pay competitively. If I did stay, it would be to get a year of experience with my new title, and then I'd probably leave for a company that paid me better.

Other details :

I work for a mid-sized tech company in the Bay area. My previous title was Senior Software Engineer, my new title is Development Manager. If I did search for a new job right now, it would probably be for a Senior Software Engineer position or a Lead/Principal Engineer position. My ultimate goal is to move into management, for a number of reasons : I regularly take leadership roles with my projects and I think I'll be a good manager; I'm in my mid-30s, am aware of the vicious age discrimination in the software field and don't relish the idea of still being an engineer in my 40s; I feel like it'll be easier to move up the management hierarchy than the engineering hierarchy.

So, given all of that, what do you think? Is it worth it to ask for more money? If not, should I stay for another year with my new title and then move on? Or should I find a job that pays better now and then try to get promoted there?
posted by apostate street preacher to Work & Money (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It's probably not a good idea to request more money unless you have an actual current offer for your employment from another company that reflects this.
posted by destructive cactus at 4:25 PM on July 15, 2013

It's totally valid to ask for more, and should be pretty easy to do so: "I was disappointed by the size of the pay increase that came with my recent promotion. My research tells me that $X is the current typical salary received by people in my new position, and I would like to propose that you increase my pay accordingly."

Odds are that $X may be more than your employer is ready or willing to pay, but the company can then come back and say, "Sorry, we don't have funding for any greater pay increase right now," or "Sorry, we can't go that high, but we can offer you $Y instead" (where $Y is more than you're already making). And if you're lucky, you might even get, "Wow, how did we overlook that!?! We'll certainly raise your pay to $X."

The important (and difficult) part of asking for more money: remain dispassionate and logical. Don't think, "I'm asking for something that will affect my quality of life." Think, "I'm proposing my employer evaluate a slightly different business decision than the one it previously made." Your request should not be made with teary eyes or uncontrolled emotion, and you should not take the company's response as a statement about your value as a person.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:34 PM on July 15, 2013 [15 favorites]

Take the promotion and keep putting your resume out there and looking for another job. Bide your time. If you're worth what you think, they'll find a way to pay you. Title doesn't matter. When you have a solid job offer (or offers), bail if they don't pay you what you're worth on the open market.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 4:37 PM on July 15, 2013

If you don't ask you won't get it. And think of other ways of meeting your needs. No more money for raises? Hey, can I get a different title? Can you offer me more training & put me on track for management within X months? Get creative with asking, it never hurts unless your request is unreasonable, especially since people should know what their going rate is for their labor.

It's always a good idea to ask, it doesn't immediately convey that you're unhappy unless you're sitting with your manager and making frowny angry faces. Of course, don't be contentious, be polite, yada yada. So don't be afraid to ask. You work to get paid.

Don't be afraid/apprehensive of looking for a new position, you get the benefit of knowing how in demand you are and such and such. You have to hustle sometimes (a lotta times) in order to get to where you want to be.


1. ask and if they say, no we can't give you $, ask for something else
2. don't quit but reach out to see whats out there in the labor market for you. find something way awesome? take it if you want. find nothing? stay and keep looking to improve your skills until you can make your move
posted by driedmango at 4:38 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Although I don't work in tech, what I've noticed in the legal field is that when you ask for more money, if/when they say no, they don't have any clue that it would make you look for another job. They remain comfortable in their original assumption, which is that you will be content with what they offered in the first place.

So, at least in my field, asking for more money is not dangerous. Often futile, though. We find that people who can put in writing the justification for their request, with graphs and charts and the like, tend to be the most successful. So make sure you have your talking points lined up. You may not be a revenue producer, which is what talks in these parts, but if you can point out (a) job performance, (b) ways that you have added to the company, especially if those can be translated into $$, (c) your potential to do even more of this in the future, and (d) industry standards that would support a raise, your chances would be better here.

You know your industry and I don't, though. So take it for what it's worth.
posted by janey47 at 4:44 PM on July 15, 2013

I had a boss once who used to say, "Never count yourself out." In other words, don't convince yourself that the answer is "no" (thus *making* the answer "no") -- ask the question, make the request, put yourself out there, and let someone else answer the question. The answer might be yes.

I think you have to ask for more money, before you take any other steps. Give him the chance to say yes.
posted by MoxieProxy at 4:59 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my experience, they are expecting you to ask for more and have already budgeted to give you more.
posted by amaire at 5:32 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whether they give you the extra money or not, make sure to ask them what they would need to make it worth their while to give you more money. Ask them outright: "what can I do to be worth more to you and earn a top raise next time?"

Also, depending on how the company is structured, sometimes the "promotion pay" doesn't actually take effect until you've proven yourself in the new position. So they might give you a token amount now, and then in six months or a year, you get a bigger bump.
posted by gjc at 5:46 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I believe in always looking for a new job or position because it keeps me aware of what my employer and I should expect from my labor and energy....
posted by OhSusannah at 6:02 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, given all of that, what do you think

I think you are overestimating the relative developer:line_manager value prop to the company.

Also, the age discrimination thing is true, but just try finding a job as a 40-something L1 or L2 manager.
posted by rr at 6:56 PM on July 15, 2013

near the end of your next one to one meetings with your direct manager say something like "to be honest, the raise that came with my promotion was less than i was expecting, based on the research i did." then it's in his court. any answer they give will tell you something. the best response would be to engage with you to see why you think that way, and explain their side. if they don't really say much, and they don't get back to you after weeks, then you also have your answer.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:57 PM on July 15, 2013

I'm actually in a very similar situation now at the moment, and I'm working to resolve it too.

Realize that this is the nature of business. Your company's job is to try to get you to create as much value for as little compensation as possible. Sometimes they will throw you a bone, but that's only to keep you happy so you continue to create good value. If they underpay you too much, you'll do shitty work or you'll leave, and that costs them value.

Your job, on the other hand, is to get as much compensation as possible while providing as little value as possible. Of course, as workers, we all have to put in enough effort to keep the company happy. If we provide too little value, our company throws us out.

Now, put these two pieces of knowledge to use. Go in and ask for a further raise and use hard data to prove that you deserve it. Find some solid information that demonstrates that you provide value that is far above and beyond the amount that you are being compensated... and that in order for you to be satisfied and productive, you need to be paid more in line with the value you are creating.

If you can demonstrate the value you create, and if you can demonstrate that your compensation is insufficient, they'll listen and give your proposal serious consideration. If they don't, then they're greedy and clueless bastards that aren't worth working for.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:51 PM on July 15, 2013

Do not hesitate to negotiate. It does not have to signal that you are unhappy in your job. Quite the contrary, it can signal that you like your job and want to stay AND you're confident of the value you bring to the organization. As long as you keep it on a 'just business' level, there is no reason for anything to become awkward.

I work in a different field than you (I work for a health research organization), but I faced a similar situation not long ago: glowing performance review resulting in promotion, accompanied by a pay increase that was disproportionate to my evaluation. Since this was all part of the annual review process, there were clear, formal procedures for communicating a request for a re-evaluation of my compensation (including a documented meeting with my supervisor and our center director, followed up with a written request submitted to the appropriate decision-making parties). They literally doubled my raise. Budgets are tight all over; management has a strong interest in starting with the low-ball offer, knowing full well that plenty of people will be too timid to negotiate.

If they really, truly do not have room in the budget, the worst that can happen is they'll say 'no'. But they will not penalize you for advocating for yourself, as long as you really are doing good work for the company and you keep your communications professional and respectful. If they are reasonable, they will likely respect you for speaking up for yourself.

(Now, by all means, you can gain even greater leverage if you shop yourself around for another job and get a better offer; but you do not necessarily have to do that before requesting a better raise. If they say no, then you can go ahead and do the job search thing; and chances are if you do receive a better offer from someone else, your current employer will try to negotiate again.)
posted by fikri at 10:09 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

My experience, having had more conversations as a manager about people's pay than I recall, is that negotiation is always an option. Always. A manager will often make it seem like it isn't and try and push the decision somewhere else (e.g. pay freeze) but there is a lot of cash to be saved by not producing your best offer to employees every time. Why? Because salary details have a habit of leaking. So if Jane gets x + 5, then Jane's peers also tend to demand or be recruited at x +5 over time.

But - often employees do not know if and when the cards are stacked in their favour. The simple rules are, if:

- You are valuable
- You are hard to replace and therefore they need you to stay
- You represent a credible threat of exiting

.. your employer find the money, assuming your demands are reasonable. The first two conditions are the most important. The credible threat of exiting is where the negotiation gets interesting. If you actually have a job offer from elsewhere the decision will move very quickly. If you wave about vague threats of "knowing" you can get more elsewhere, they'll probably defer you or wait to see how credible it is you'll try and leave.

Your value is not absolute. The moment you become easy to replace at the same or less cost, or your skills become less in demand then your internal market value drops. My experience is that the employees who negotiate hardest on their salaries get paid more. End of story.

Golden rule: they want to know what number you'd be happy with. Ideally, get them to come back to you with a number. You'll get more money that way, but it's hard to do.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:08 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

However, I know how hard it is to find someone with my skills, and I know how much money companies like mine will pay in recruiting fees and referral bonuses to hire someone like me. It really would be in their best interest to just pay me more to keep me.

You go on believing that. Most companies often will put the cart before the horse deciding it is easier to lose a disgruntled employee, because they can always find someone with the same skill set, sometimes even cheaper.
Your best strategy is to research comparable salaries in your geographic region and state simply that while you are grateful for the increased opportunities and challenges of the new position your research indicates it comes with a higher salary.
posted by Gungho at 6:35 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went through pretty much exactly this at the end of last year. Mid-30's Lead Engineer at a small Bay Area company, had an absolutely killer year (as in, I easily made the company 10-20x my salary in direct revenue from projects I personally designed and built and more from my team's projects, presented at the main conference for our industry, etc), but was passed over for the director promotion I wanted, and got a lesser promotion. I got no raise at all and a bonus 1/3rd the size that I got the previous year.

I told them I was pretty unhappy and just flatly refused to accept a non-raise. I (probably too aggressively) scheduled interviews with Google and a couple other big companies, and told them so. They hemmed and hawed a bit, but came back with a tiny bit more money and promised a performance review mid-year with potentially more money (which hasn't happened yet, shocker), and things have been very awkward with my boss, and his boss. If I show up to work wearing a tie they pull me aside and ask if I'm interviewing. If I schedule vacation or take a sick day, they ask if I'm interviewing. I don't get invited to critical meetings, and my team hasn't been getting the resources that we need to do our jobs. I feel like a second class citizen now.

So yeah I got more money, but if I could do it again, I would keep my mouth shut, work towards a promotion and look for a better position in the meantime. Hope that helps a bit, just a personal anecdote.
posted by skintension at 4:48 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

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